The key difference between CDs and vinyl is that with CDs, you can’t “touch the sound” so to speak. Instead, you have to rely on the buttons, jog wheel and other controls of a CD deck. But first things first.
Note: A lot of today’s professional CD players have the “vinyl emulation” feature that makes the jog wheel act in many ways like a record on a turntable. I’ll devote a separate article to that feature, but for now, let’s talk about the basics of CD DJing common to most devices (“CDJ mode”, as they call it at Pioneer).
After you put a CD into the player, it will start playing from track 1. Skip to the desired track using the skip buttons. While a track is playing, you can fast-forward or rewind using the search buttons. Nothing unusual so far.
Once you hear the first beat of the song, quickly hit the Play/Pause button. That will pause the deck and make it loop a split second of sound after the current point of the track (“stutter” mode). In this mode, the jog wheel allows you to search the tune frame by frame (1/75th of a second). Using the wheel, slowly rewind to find the point just before the first beat. To be able to return to this point later, press the Cue button. In “stutter” mode, it saves the current track position in memory. The button’s light will start blinking, signaling that the cue point has been saved.
Here’s what CD cueing sounds like, from starting the track to finding the point to pressing the Cue button:
After you’ve saved the cue point, you’re ready to start the track. To do this, simply hit Play/Pause again. The track will start from its current position, i.e. exactly on its first beat.
Note: Despite all professional CD decks boasting the “instant start” feature, in reality, there’s always a miniscule delay between you pressing the Play/Pause button and the track beginning to play. Moreover, the length of the delay varies from one model to another. Thus you’ll have to get used to how your particular CD player starts, and set the cue point on the previous step accordingly.
When beatmatching, you often need to slow the track down or speed it up briefly in order to bring its beats in sync with the other record. In CD DJ parlance, it’s called “pitch bending.”
There are two main ways to pitch bend on CD decks. The first one is to use the jog wheel. Rotating the jog clockwise speeds the track up, and rotating it counterclockwise slows the track down. The second way is to use the Pitch bend buttons, which are present on some players. Pressing a Pitch bend button speeds up or slows down the track while you’re holding it. (In reality, you give the jog wheel just tiny pushes or press the Pitch bend buttons in very brief touches.)
There’s another surprise waiting for you here. The sensitivity of the jog wheel as well as the Pitch bend buttons may vary considerably from one player model to another. Thus the way you used to pitch bend in your bedroom may not work as expected in the club because your adjustments may end up being too big or too small on another deck. Know what decks you’ll be dealing with, or, better yet, come to the club early to familiarize yourself with them.
On CD decks, you adjust the pitch just like you’d do it on a vinyl turntable. The added bonus is that you can see the pitch percentage on the deck’s display, which often shows it with 0.01% accuracy.
After you’ve beatmatched the track, press the Cue button again. In the playback mode, this button will bring you back to the previously saved cue point (which was on the first beat, right?) and pause the player. You’re all set for starting the blend!
You always have to bear in mind the peculiarities of a particular piece of equipment if you’re spinning CDs. However, with the Pioneer decks having become the de-facto club standard, practicing on a pair of their players is a more or less sure bet. Hey, Pioneer, where’s my check for the endorsement?!
JM has played open-air gigs, shared the stage with the likes of ATB and had mix albums released commercially. He has been teaching DJing since 2008.
Please log in again. The login page will open in a new window. After logging in you can close it and return to this page.